Friday, April 23, 2010
YuShan (or Jade Mt), Taiwan
At 3952 meters, YuShan (or Jade Mountain) is Taiwan's highest mountain. It is also the highest mountain in East Asia and the Far East. To find higher peaks you have to go west to the Himalayan outliers in China's SiChuan Province, north to Kamchatka in Siberia, east to Mauna Kea in Hawaii or south to Mt Kinabalu in Malaysia's Sabah State.
The area where YuShan stands supreme includes Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Indo-China, and all of eastern China. At one stage, the Japanese thought their Mt Fuji was the highest in this area. When they landed in Taiwan in the 1890s, they discovered to their chagrin that YuShan was even higher. So they promptly annexed Taiwan in 1900 which solved the embarrassment that the highest mountain was not in Japanese territory.
Supposedly there are a few English speaking climbing companies to YuShan. But I can only find one - http://www.barking-deer.com/ . However they never replied to my enquiries.
So I signed up with a local Chinese speaking company http://www.yx.com.tw/ . They are very professional; the best organized mountain climbing outfit I have experienced. The draw back is they only speak/write in Chinese. But still, if you wish to go with them and is baffled by their Chinese website and application forms, contact me and I can help with the translation. On the trip itself, there bound to be someone in the group who can speak English to help you out.
The trip is a 2-day climb using the west face approach. Only a day pack is required as a sleeping bag is provided for the night at a halfway lodge called Paiyun Lodge. We only need to carry our own packed lunch, water and warm clothes. There is no need to carry the night's dinner.
The starting point of the climb is near Paiyun Visitors' Center (2600 meters) at the west side of YuShan National Park. We are there at 9:00am, register ourselves with the park ranger, look around and view a video about YuShan. By the time we start walking, it is 10am.
The first day's track is not too steep. It is 8.5km to the halfway Paiyun Lodge, at 3402 meters. We reach it 6 hours later at 4pm. Dinner is surprisingly abundant considering the spartan set up of the lodge.
We are in bed well before 8pm. The beds in the lodge is similar to that in Japan's Mt Fuji - in a small-ish room there are long double decker beds on both sides of the wall. Each deck sleeps 12 people in sardine-packed style, hence a total of 24 people on 2 decks at one side of the wall. Another 24 people on the other side of the wall and we have a total of 48 people in one room.
Naturally it is almost impossible to sleep in this environment - you can hear clearly people tossing and turning, coughing, getting in and out of bed. Everyone is glad to be waken up by the mountain guide at 2am for a light breakfast.
By 3am we are on our way to the peak in the dark. This part of the climb is steeper. Thankfully, the park authorities have provided poles and chains for us to hold on to. By 5:30am, 2.5km later, we reach the top just in time to see the sun rise. We are lucky, it is a clear day with not much cloud, minimal wind. As the sun gradually brightens the surrounding landscape, we can see the mountain ranges below, twisting and folding onto each other due to the collision of the Philippines and Eurasian Tectonic plates.
Of the "Asian trilogy"
. Malaysia Sabah's Mt Kinabalu - 4095 meters
. Taiwan's YuShan - 3952 meters
. Japan's Mt Fuji - 3776 meters
All are similar 2-day climbs. I find YuShan easiest, because the starting point of the walk is at 2600 meters. Whereas the starting point is around 2000 meters for the other 2 mountains. Kinabalu has the most fascinating wind-sculptured rock formations at the top. YuShan doesn't have them; but its 360 degree view of the mountain ranges below is still a sight to behold.
The following photos throw more light on the climb.
1: Our group (21 hikers and 2 guides) at the trail head called Tataka Saddle (2600 meters) about 1.5km east of Paiyun Visitor's Center - here, we start walking at 10 am.
2, 3: On the trail to the halfway lodge
4: On the left is an Azelea. They happen to be flowering at this time. On the right is a typical tree in YuShan.
5: An Azalea - there are plenty of them in YuShan. They brightened the hill side with their lovely flowers.
6: YuShan is the little bump at the centre of this photo.
7, 8, 9: We reach the halfway lodge, called Paiyun Lodge (3402 meters) at 4pm and stay here for the night.
10, 11: Dinner is surprisingly abundant considering the spartan set up of the lodge.
12: One of the rooms in the lodge - 48 people can be crammed into this little room.
13. The frail old lady beside me must be over 65 years old. She made it to the top the next day. Shame to all those who claim they are too old to tackle high mountains.
14: Closer view of the peak - we get up at 2 am. Have a light breakfast. Start walking towards it at 3 am.
15, 16: We reach the peak (3952 meters) at 5:30 am, just in time to see the sun rise.
17, 18, 19, 20, 21: Returning to Paiyun Lodge - glad we scrambled to the top in the dark and did not notice the steep slope and the narrow trail !!! One slip and you may not be alive.
22, 23: A covered walkway - to prevent hikers being hit by falling rocks.
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